Why dance is my biggest regret in life

  • Editors note: Having read the LA Times article I have changed my stance on this issue. I am leaving this article in place for posterity sake as it accurately reflects what I felt at the time I thought dancers were going to be asked to work for free.    -Stephanie Bri

There’s not a lot of things in my life I would classify as a regret. For the most part I take what life has thrown at me with a grin and a nod to fate. I’ve been quite blessed in many ways. Along those same lines there are few things that get me hot blooded. Screwing over dancers is one of them.

The recent reports of Super Bowl dancers being asked to work, for free, during a once-in-a-lifetime highly rated sporting event that rakes in millions of dollars in ad revenue alone boils my blood so fast. It starts with a reminder how disgusting capitalism has become in a world where imaginary digital currency can crash stock markets. This is the worst kind of egregious infraction in my opinion.

It’s not like I ever had legit dreams of being a dancer myself. But if you went back in time to 1999-2002 you would have known a different version of me. Back then I was a break dancer. I know how hard a dancer works. I know the grueling pain they put their body through to get a set down. I have been there. I was pretty good too.

I had a break dance group with a few friends. We battled in back alleys and on side walks in Casino parking lots or in the high school gym during our lunch period. Then we managed to get two public performances. The first was the Sweat heart ball. I was hired as DJ. My homies and I set aside a song that would serve as the back drop for our single dance set. I have plenty of witnesses who can back this up. Once my crew hit the floor the cheers were so loud it drowned out the music. The police came by because they thought there was a riot taking place. We tore the roof of that place. We kicked ass. But that 90 second performance was a culmination of 9 months of intense work outs, training and practice. We busted our asses to bust out those moves in front of a crowd.

We were so damn hot right after we were invited to perform at Prom too. This was a big deal because our prom took place inside the ballroom at the largest casino in town. Again it was a show stopping performance. When I say I know what a dancer puts their body through I fucking mean it. I was damn good. The reason I didn’t pursue it full time was as superficial as why I did it in the first place. I was also a Hip Hop DJ and rap performer. I spent all my time, effort and money on starting up a recording studio which I used to release three underground albums that all tanked hard core. Once I lost all my money I sank into a dead end business I walked away.

It wasn’t until around ten years later I found myself in college. I had a South Korean friend I met in English class who turned out was a skilled b boy. He and I met up after classes and rented a space at the rec room. We would practice our moves. It was like being back in high school. I was a theater minor at the time so the idea of actually making a living as a dancer re-entered my mind for real this time. Until it just left me.

All of a sudden one day I was too tired from depression to bring myself to get up. This was after losing 35 pounds over the course of three months and working out at the gym every night. I got back into shape. At 31 I was the most fit I had ever been in my life. Depression took hold and I was back in my sloth ways before long. A couple days go by my friend asked if I was coming down to dance. I stopped going. After a couple more days he just stopped asking. In 2015 I broke my foot in a pretty decisive way. My dreams of ever being a dancer for a living were thoroughly squashed for good.

I don’t ever talk about my dancing beyond a mere mention. On rare occasions I will mention when I was in high school I had been a break dancer. But I never reflect on exactly how much effort I put into that. I wasted countless h ours getting in shape, buffing my body and learning hot hip hop dance steps you’d be amazed to have seen me pull off. Today you’d be in disbelief if I could even describe the moves I was once capable of popping out at the drop of a hat, literally as a ball cap was a part of my routine.

When I hear one of the richest institutions in the country is ripping off under paid, over worked dancers who are living their dream it brings my blood to a boil. To the point where if nothing changes there is no chance in hell I watch that game this year. I gave up my dream. I walked away. Nobody who is out there putting in the effort, time and work to kill herself to get ready for the biggest night in sports entertainment should be asked to work for free. These women are living their dream they deserve to be paid accordingly. Dancing is hard ass work. You have no idea.

Walking away is legit my biggest regret in life. I lost count how many times I have driven out to the country, cranked up a b boy track and cried tears of solid regret at what I gave up to be an obese diabetic writer. Nothing stings harsher than the disappointment I have in myself walking away from that theater minor chasing a path that landed me expelled from school and working freelance to make a living. Nothing punches me in the gut more than seeing a dancer on TV bust out a move I was once able to do at a moments notice. Today I couldn’t even do a cartwheel to save my life.

My days of spinning on my head, backflips and robot glides are long ass gone. Do me a favor and make some noise for those women who are holding onto hope keeping their dream alive. I can’t call for a boycott of the Super Bowl, not one person who has a vested interest in the matter will answer that call. Instead I will cry tears of sorrow for the life I gave up. I will cry in solidarity with dancers who just want to get an honest pay for a hard ass days work.

How my love affair with the English language nearly changed my life

When I was 12 years old my parents gave me a typewriter. Getting that device was akin to the moment John Boy Walton was given his ticket off Walton Mountain. I recall sitting on the floor in the living room fighting to stay awake as my family gathered around the television set to watch those Walton’s living their simple lives. I would think to myself how cool it was John Boy could be a writer. I, too, had aspirations to someday become a writer.

When I was in college I struggled at first to decide what I wanted to do with my life. At first I considered trying my hand at computer science. One look at the requisite math courses killed that dream. As I poured through the course catalog reading descriptions of each major three stood out to me. The first was Broadcasting. This was in the communications field. I thought it would be cool to work in radio or television. The second was theater. In the back of my mind I thought I wanted to become a filmmaker someday and figured theater would put me on the path towards that end. The third major I considered, painstakingly so for three full semesters before letting go, was English.

Way back when I was 12 I poured my heart and soul into the keys I pressed on that rusty old machine. I dabbled in various genres ranging from fiction to journaling. I knew someday I would make a living using the written word; I just never knew what that would look like back then. Despite my lack of direction I fell instantly in love with the English language. I even had considered declaring English my college path when I was still in high school. I figured I could study literature while learning to write.

During my college studies I had to make choices. Because my major was in Broadcasting (journalism) and minor fluctuated from one semester to the next, I had to choose courses that fit into completing that catalog. I was given many choices for required courses to fulfil certain aspects of the degree. One such choice nearly drove me to pivot the entire trajectory of my course of studies. As a communications major I had  a functional English requirement than necessitated I take either a Grammar or Linguistics Course. Unlike the majority of my peers who chose the easier grammar course I took the harder road and signed up, gleefully, for linguistics.

When I tell people I studied English in college I often confuse them. A journalism degree can be broken down into four component parts of equal importance. The first is the news side. You take courses in news gathering, print theory, graphic design and news writing. The second aspect is the technical courses. You have to learn computer software such as InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Premiere. You take courses in web design, html and photography. Then there is the knowledge side. You have to take courses in political science, history, philosophy, ethics, communications law and sociology. Finally there is the English side of it.

A degree in journalism is basically and English light degree. While I broke it down, as did the university, into four components, it was evenly split between 50 percent English and 50 percent everything else. I really was getting an English Degree minus a handful of courses that would have qualified me to teach it in schools across the nation. I took a lot of English courses. Some of my favorites were rhetoric, creative writing, prose, poetry, playwriting, research and academic writing, and that coveted linguistics course.

I cherished every moment I got to learn the intricacies of my mother tongue. The heart of a writer, the tools we use to craft our art work is built upon our grasp of how phonemes work together to produce sounds that convey the emotions behind our intentions. The deep level of respect I gained for the language. The admiration that course instilled into me regarding the layers upon layers that exist in our often maligned language fascinated me to no end. I fell in love with English. I began a love affair with her that remains vibrant and passionate to this day.

In my final semester before being kicked out of school I was talking to my college advisor about contemplating changing my major from Journalism (English lite) to English proper. I even wanted to drop my political science minor I picked up along the way in lieu of an English major with an education emphasis. I was to replace those technical communications courses with courses diving deeper into the rich history of English works. I would add several literature courses to my work load. I would go back and take that grammar course I skipped along with a few sister course to it. Then I could graduate still qualified to write for a newspaper but also with the right tools to teach should the need arise.

When I look back at my unfinished bachelor’s of science in journalism I have one thought. I would give anything, do anything to go back to college one more time and finish that degree. This time I would throw everything I studied before out and start afresh. I would pursue a proper English Major with an appropriate minor in literature. I would love to go back to my estranged lover to rekindle our previous affair. The metaphor loses it’s meaning from there. But the point remains. My one regret in life is not picking English as my major up front.

How do you pick a hometown when you never lived anyplace very long?

I always hated it when a form would ask me for my hometown. It’s not that I have an issue with the question itself. The issue I have is I don’t know how to answer it. I normally pick Twin Falls, Idaho for various reasons. Today I wanna look at each contender for my hometown and describe why I really wish I didn’t ever get asked that question or the similar “so where you from?” both cause me anxiety.

Let’s start with Twin Falls. I sometimes answer this as my “hometown” because this is where I was born. However I always feel like I am being dishonest saying this place because I didn’t exactly grow up there. In fact I really only lived in Twin Falls for about 6 months or so one year when I was an adult. In fact I never lived there or even visited it in my childhood days. I moved to towns around Twin Falls throughout my teen years but we didn’t live in Twin.

Next contender is Jackpot, Nevada. Unlike Twin Falls I did live here quite a bit. In fact this is where I went to high school. The whole time I lived in Jackpot we did our shopping and other commerce in Twin Falls so I often count my time in Jackpot towards my time in Twin, thus adding a little extra credence to that previous claim. However I despised everything about this town. I really don’t even like admitting I ever lived there. Therefore I have no desire to claim this as my hometown. Also even though I lived there a lot off and on, I still lived there in short bursts broken up by other places so it wasn’t even a continuous shot.

The other childhood favorite of mine I sometimes claim as my hometown is none other than Miltonvale, Kansas. I have written quite a bit on the impact living there had on me so I will refrain from that here. Like Twin I never lived there for very long. At most we lived there about a year and a half when I was 12 to 13. Also like Twin Falls we lived around it enough we always claimed we were from there even when we weren’t exactly. We made this claim because we spent our weekends there since I had uncles who lived in town as well as cousins. Thus of all the towns I lived around or near this one felt the most like a hometown. Again since my time there was brief, I only attended 6th grade and most of 7th  grade there, I don’t think it counts as a true answer either.

The last place I have tried to claim as my “hometown” when the questions arises is Whitesboro, Texas. I chose this one because unlike all the previous ones I did live  here for a significant length of time as an adult. I bought a home in Whitesboro and lived there for nearly 6 years. I also worked for the local newspaper so I had a hand in crafting the towns local legends and historical record. My work contributed to the public record which will remain in tact for decades via archives. However another unique feature of Whitesboro is it being the only town I was ran out of by the locals for being trans. As I am no longer welcome there I don’t feel right claiming it either.

Thus here I am a woman without a place to call home. Or at the very least home town. That doesn’t make me homeless in the strictest sense. However I feel a sense of shame coupled with anger whenever someone asks me that intrusive, yet seemingly harmless, question. It’s  just one more reminder my life was far from normal.

What an R-rated anime film taught me about art, life and humanity

When I was a kid I only had two subjects I really struggled in, save for gym class which I refused to participate in anyways. The first is obvious, math. Most students struggle with math. I never figured out what made it so complex for me but I stopped trying after 3rd grade. The second major subject I struggled with was not one you’d expect if you know me at all. It was art. I had a really hard time in art.

My struggles in math has cost me access to a career path I really had my heart set on exploring, computer programming. I couldn’t successfully complete the prerequisite math courses to even take the computer science courses I desired so heavily to take.

This brings me to why I am talking about art now. From a very young age I loved drawing. I enjoyed coloring in coloring books. I also really loved painting. I didn’t care if it was water colors, acrylics or oil paints I just enjoyed painting. The problem is I suck at it. Unlike math where I essentially handicapped myself because I stopped trying. At least in that regards I have nobody to blame but myself. Art was different.

When I was in kindergarten my teachers and school counselors discovered I had something wrong with my fine motor skills. This left me in a position where my handwriting was illegible. I was exempt from learning cursive as a result. I attended special education courses as well as physical therapy my entire elementary education. In fact it was a result of this therapy that I was told I needed to play more video games. I had a doctor note telling my parents it would help with my hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The downside was this was a physical handicapt that prevented me from fully exploring a craft I always craved, artistic endeavors.

I learned to over come my handicap despite never getting a proper diagnosis. I was told, my mother told me the school told her the reason for my issues were because I had switched from being left handed to right handed in kindergarten. There may be some truth to this. I have certain tasks even to this day I complete left handed whereas opening doors, writing and certain other tasks I performed with my right hand. This is not to say I was ambidextrous. Rather it was more like I just had no proficiency and as a result never developed a proper dominant hand, they both remain largely submissive in their own respects. This does cause issues in typing but I have learned to feel the keyboard so I can type quite well, accurately and fast even with my eyes closed.

This brings me back to art class. When I was a kid I loved drawing cartoon and comic book characters. I even invested allowance money into art supplies, art books, supplemental art courses and magazines that featured art heavily as a topic. I desperately wanted nothing more than to learn to draw. Lacking artistic talent was never my issue entirely. I can use a computer to create pleasant, colorful compositions of artistic expression. As a writer I discovered being creative minded bore me tremendous talent I could utilize to provide myself with a living based on my writing alone.

I had one art teacher who recognized my passion for art was held back only by my inability to coordinate my hands properly. Sure I eventually developed some coordination skills, after all I was a drummer, break dancer and turntablist which necessitated I teach my hands to work well together in tandem. That being said I still to this day have tremendous pain in my muscles whenever I try to use my hands for extended periods of time. I can manage to type or play a video game for a spell but do require frequent breaks in order to prevent my hands from cramping. The downside to this is I can’t draw a straight line to save my life. Even if I were to use a compass or other instrument to aid in drawing a circle I never could draw pleasant circles. The best I could muster are doodles that others would call scribbling at best. This broke my heart.

I wanted to be graphic artist. I wanted to design video games for a living. Being held back by my math limits was hard enough on me. While I made every attempt to overcome my math deficiencies in college I stopped short of a C- in a class dubbed “math for liberal arts,” aka math for dummies. Upon completing the course my instructor advised I take a remedial math course to hone my skills. Looking at the path it would take by adding three full semesters of basic high school level math just to get me up to college freshmen standards I declined thus putting to bed my dream of becoming a video game designer. Or programmer.

What does that have to do with art? I took one art course every semester in high school. Despite having this handicap coupled with under developed skills in regards to basic art principals, my high school art teacher never gave up on me. She pushed me to my limits. One of those assignments had me attempting to draw a still frame image from one of my favorite anime films, Project A-ko. Even though it was an R-rated animated film with full frontal nudity she allowed me to bring the tape to school on the grounds it was for educational purposes. While I earned a passing grade on the assignment she should have failed me.

All in all the truth is I never completed any of the tasks assigned. She passed me on the merits of “you did your best” and she was a church going teacher who respected my Sunday-school teaching mother and deacon father. Thus I was passed not because I developed the tools to do so, rather on her knowing my mom personally.

This getting straight A’s in high school art courses despite never learning the skills bite me in the ass once I made it to college. The very first course I failed, miserably, was my 1st semester art course. I took introduction to art appreciation because it was supposed to be an easy a. Well I failed the class. I had to use all my talents as a communications major to talk my instructor into allowing me a make up extra credit assignment. Instead he gave me the ten bonus points to pass me so I didn’t have to repeat his course.

This is all a reminder that not everyone can learn everything just because you set your heart on it. While it is true there is no limit to what a person can learn, there are limits on how much a person can learn. A jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none leaves a person with a knowledge base a mile wide and an inch deep. In other words you can learn too little of too many things. This is what I did. I spread myself too thin. I had a math teacher tell me I could learn math if I tried harder but I would have to sacrifice other subjects I was taking to put in the effort and make room in my brain. She said it boiled down to effort. I was unwilling to put in the effort for math. In regards to art I tried. I even took a graphic design course during my journalism studies to which I failed hard because I never could grasp the art principals. I understood them but never could implement them in practice. I reached my limit and I am okay with that. I had to learn despite having a desire to learn everything under the sun I do have limits. That is what makes me human.

Imposter Syndrome: A pack of lies all trans folks must face sooner or later

Imposter Syndrome is the worst part of being transgender. It can manifest during the worst times. Right along side tremendous dysphoria, it is one of those negative feelings that tends to overwhelm many trans folks. It is a particular bitch whenever it manifests in my life.

When I get imposter syndrome I get it in multiple layers. The first is as a trans woman formerly male presenting I often get it bad whenever I do normal everyday activities when I don’t feel I am “girling” right. It hits me with feelings I am only playing a girl and not a very good one at that. These feelings of inadequacy tend to trigger depression, anxiety and self doubt.

Another area I often get imposter syndrome is in my career. Many times my brain will trick me into dismissing the significance of my various accomplishments. These are those particularly dark days where I don’t view my triumphs as victories, rather as defeats at the hand of failure. When this iteration of imposter syndrome hits I often feel like I am not a “real” writer, photographer, artists, video producer, etc., whatever it is at the time. It especially hits me whenever I finish recording a podcast. My brain reminds me that despite majoring in broadcasting in college I have never worked at a radio station. Imposter syndrome reminds me that I once held onto a dream of being a radio DJ. I dabbled in this as a former party/wedding DJ and recently as a podcast host. But there remain days where I feel like I haven’t achieved my goal of radio DJ therefore I am an imposter pretending to be a radio host with my “little podcast.”

The other area in my life where this beast rears its ugly head is relatively new. It is in my love life. Recently I started watching playoff football with my girlfriend. She is very much into the sport, the teams and the playoff picture. I am not. Sometimes we will be watching a game and I take delight in the way she lights up talking about the game or her favorite team’s prospects for a championship title. These conversations bring me tremendous joy as her girlfriend. But every so often imposter syndrome ties to tell me I am not a good enough girlfriend because I don’t put in more effort to learn the game as in depth as she has. Other times I feel like I am only faking interest in it so her and I can have something to do. In these moments I feel less like her girlfriend and more like a friend tagging along. I know better because she is fine with our conversations regarding the game.

Whenever I find myself face to face with imposter syndrome I usually try to talk myself out of it. I remember that I don’t need to live up to stereotypes to be a woman. I don’t have to discount my successes simply because I have unrealized goals. Likewise I am a perfectly loyal girlfriend doing the best I can to share the interests of the woman I love. I have to battle this beast on a daily basis to be honest. Most days it is one of the three or even all instances. Those days are the worst. I feel like a dude pretending to be a girl, pretending to be a writer, pretending to be a good romantic partner. Those days tear me up inside. Sometimes I hide it with laughter and jokes. Other days I get quiet and withdrawn. Every once in a while I overcome the beast and remember who I am.

A recent example of when I let it really get me down was this past week. I underwent a psychiatric exam to determine if I had ADHD or some other learning or cognitive impairment. During the course of the report I stumbled upon a gut wrenching diagnosis that continues to fill me with disgust every time I think about it. I was diagnosed with transsexualism, an outdated term that has been replaced with Gender Dysphoria.

A transsexual in today’s lingo is a character you might find performing adult entertainment on the seedier side of the internet. It is not a respectable word to use when referring to a transgender individual. I spent the whole rest of the week disgusted with myself for having that word tied to my medical history. Thus I felt branded. I felt betrayed. I felt like I had been transported back in time to a period where trans people were even less understood than we are now. It blew out my self esteem as it hit me with the worst case of imposter syndrome I have had in ages. It’s compatriot word, transvestite, found it’s way into the dark recesses of my mind before pushing into the forefront of my brain. I struggled to come out of the closet for decades because I didn’t want to be thought of as a transvestite. I shudder at the sound of that word, even more so when it is coming from my own brain.

I haven’t pieced together a way to overcome this current bout of imposter syndrome. I thought perhaps if I wrote about it I might get some clarity. As I contemplate the meaning of every thought I write down I wonder even now if I will ever kick this  round. It is taking every ounce of my energy to fend off the depression that is sure to follow if this round of imposter syndrome succeeds in taking me down. I have lost sleep every day this week as a result. Altogether since reading that diagnosis I have had a cumulative 5 hours of sleep from Tuesday till well today as I lay awake well past midnight.

Sometimes I can talk myself into sense of calm. I know there are other aspects of my personality that were revealed in that exam I have to contend with. I am taking this entire ordeal one piece at a time. Earlier it was my self esteem and self image shattered that caused me distress. Now it is the imposter syndrome telling me I am just a homosexual male transvestite stuck in a lie. I know none of those things are true. Yet I can’t seem to shake this and it is costing me much sleep.

A big fat brat pretending to be a girl

Sometime ago I discovered I walk alone on an empty road. My life has been one where I have had to face the crushing defeat of having little to no support from others around me. All the different pieces of my past; bullying, moving, gender dysphoria, being in special ed, not having friends, therapists trying to fix me; all these things culminated in a shell of a person I thought I knew.

This past week that shell was hollowed out. I had a mental health physician conduct an exam of my faculties. I had expected to be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, social anxiety, ADHD and maybe dyspraxia or something similar. All the piece of my life would finally make sense once I had a concrete explanation for why I was so terrible at functioning normally. Instead what I got was far more eye opening than I ever imagined.

I won’t share the full results. I still have a lot to process and much of it will need to remain private. What I can say is the doctors findings are incompatible with what I believed. I am beyond words. But why? Why was it so important to get diagnosed with a mental or cognitive disability? Because it would make sense of my issues. To discover my brain works fine, there are no impairments preventing me from functioning normally, aside from the harsh reality I now face. It was me all along.

I have no excuse. I was diagnosed, among others with cPTSD, chronic. This tells me, along with the doctors words in the report, the reason I am incapable of operating normally is simply because I just don’t. For whatever reason stress, anxiety, fear and anger control me. Her prognoses basically blamed my emotional distress on all my problems. In a roundabout way she tried to make it sound like my hormone replacement therapy, a product of the “transsexualism” she branded me in the report, were to blame. The report reads like Stephanie is a grown adult who acts like a child because she can’t handle her emotions. She is also taking hormones that elevate her emotional distress so she needs to just grow up.

There in so many words a medical professional determining that what is wrong with me is my inability to act like an adult. My functional deficiencies are a direct result of my child like emotional states, basically she said I suck at life because I am a big kid throwing a temper tantrum. That blew out my self esteem. She shifted all the blame squarely on my shoulders.

I am the problem. I can’t blame my parents, past, environment or some learning disability. What it amounts to is I am lazy, childish, emotionally unstable and beyond selfish. None of those were words I would use to describe myself. Yet here they are black and white on a legally binding medical document for all my healthcare providers to see. I am a big baby pretending to be a girl. That is the diagnosis. I can’t deal with it. I can’t move past it. I don’t know if I can ever recover from this. Therein lies the problem. If I am a brat who refuses to grow up then why should I bother?

Why I started walking again despite my bad foot and a terrible limp

I went to the  gas station today and yesterday and it was actually kind of significant for me. I walked both times. That is a big deal for a couple of reasons. First, it’s nice and warm in Texas I can go for a casual stroll and not freeze by booty off. Second, it was the first time I went for a walk since buying this cane. Heck it was my first walk since moving into this apartment back in October if you want me to get honest.

Last summer I was going for walks every day. I even walked a whopping 50 kilometers in a single week once. I am an American who can’t do metric measurements to save my life, I only know it was that because I used Pokemon Go to keep track of my steps. Something changed when I moved. Partly it was a new neighborhood. I wasn’t really confident in my surroundings to feel comfortable going for walks. It’s not a particularly dangerous neighborhood it’s just vastly different than what I am used to.

The other reason why I stopped walking is my foot. My apartment is on the third floor. With my bad foot it is far too painful for me to go up and down those stairs as it is, it’s even harder for me to get motivated to keep walking once I get to the bottom. Normally it takes every ounce of my energy just to drag my feet to my car. So why am I suddenly so motivated to start walking again? The cane. It’s that simple.

I broke my foot in 2015. I didn’t have adequate insurance at the time to get the surgery I needed to fix it. Since it basically healed itself but not fully I chose to walk with a limp rather than go through the major steps to fix it. It was my call. So I have limped on ever since. Since moving into this apartment, however, walking has become more of a chore.

My foot is in constant pain thus I got to the point where I didn’t even want to leave the house unless I had a good reason to do so. Fortunately I took a job that lets me work from home so I don’t have to trek down those stairs. Unfortunately for me I am gaining tremendous weight as a consequence. Knowing my health is deteriorating I decided to make some changes to my lifestyle.

I have been getting sick a lot more lately than before. Not as much as I had back in the summer when my stomach pushed me to the emergency room but it’s bad. I decided it was time I started losing weight and eating right once more. I figured if I could bring myself to make that short walk down the stairs, to the gas station, back home and back up the stairs it would help. So far it’s been mixed. My diet has improved slightly and the walking does seem to be having a positive impact on my digestive functions. The downside is my damn foot. That is where the cane comes in.

A couple of weeks ago I decided I had enough limping. Days before Christmas I went to Walmart and bought myself a cane. Since doing that I have noticed a world of improvement in my foot pain. Sure things like Aspercreme and Tylenol have helped reduce the pain but the cane has helped me stave off some of the need for those by alleviating the pressure on my bad foot. It’s been such a blessing I am finally confident enough in my usage of it to go for walks without worrying about getting stranded at the gas station.

I am not back to walking multiple kilometers a day as before, in fact I am no longer using a Nintendo app to track my progress anymore. At least I am getting a few extra steps in each day. I have no idea what Buffalo, New York has in store for me when I get moved next month. What I do know is I am back to my walking self and that’s a pretty big step for me.

The milk man, the paperboy, even MTV are mourning the loss of Bob Saget

It is no surprise I grew up with Full House. Like most people my age it was a staple of our television set. Unlike most TV shows, however, this one was special for a specific reason. It was the only TV show my entire family could agree on. We all sat down to watch Full House. It wasn’t just for the kids, the girls only or a show just mom would watch, it was something we all enjoyed together. That was rare for us.

I won’t talk about my specific memories related to the show. It would be impossible to sort them out as we literally watched every single episode from pilot to finale as a family. I will instead discuss what I am feeling now knowing a major player in that show has passed away.

Unlike so many countless other celebrity deaths, this one felt personal. Danny Tanner was America’s dad throughout the entire decade of the 90s and well into reruns. The strength of the popularity of those reruns is what prompted Netflix to reunite the original cast for a revival series called Fuller House, to which Saget participated of course despite his years since distancing himself from Full House.

It was that role as America’s dad I will always remember him as. He kept his house well clean. Something my dad borrowed from the show as a lesson to us messy kids. The show taught us life lessons how to get along with our sisters or how not to care what other kids think. It has since become somewhat of a meme online but back then we welcomed the comforting wisdom Danny Tanner and his adult house guests imparted upon the world each week.

I have stated before the show had a deep personal impact upon me. I chose the name Stephanie because of Stephanie Tanner on that show. I could relate to her on so many levels. She was always my favorite of the three sisters. I picked the name for my female self when the show was still airing. I tried it on in my  bedroom once when I was merely 11 years old and it fit so well it has stuck now forming my legal name.

I moved a lot as a kid. I never made friends. I was bullied so much I grew angry and resentful towards other people, including adults. We were poor so contended with the woes that come with not having money. Yet none of that mattered those evenings we had Bob Saget on the TV comforting us along with his co-stars. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the void left behind in his absence.

I never knew the man but from what I have read or heard from those who had, the world is a lot less kind without his spark in it. He wasn’t a perfect man nor did he portray the perfect TV dad but he was *our* best TV dad and damn it that meant something. His death is a reminder time marches on. The passing of time will best all of us eventually. His life’s work was a beacon of hope for many of us. Now that hope has turned into a reminder we all lose in the end. Farewell, dad, you will be missed dearly.

What my current toy collection means and why I was nearly jailed collecting them

My recent obsession regarding my collecting bug has been toys. I have over 300 toys from more than two dozen toy lines currently. Nearly half of all my figures are Transformers or other transforming robots i.e. Power Rangers, Gobots etc. Why do I collect toys?

It all started when I was 18 years old. I walked into a comic book shop and saw an assortment of Transformers action figures behind the glass case tucked away where they were safe. Overwhelmed with nostalgia for my toys from years past I bought a couple. My first two I picked up at that time was a G1 Dinobot named Snarl and a G1 Deluxe Insecticon called Ransack. I no longer have either of those figures as a result of me selling off my entire collection in 2004 to fund a move to Kansas plus using some of the funds to launch my defunct record studio at the time. It was a terrible life decision but I had to do it at the time.

The reason I was waxing nostalgic for toys at 18 was complicated. I was a dork. I didn’t date much but when I did I often date girls way too young for me. This was partially because my interests remained in the things typically associated with 12-year-old girls. I was branded a pedophile despite never doing anything not even holding hands with any of them when our ages prevented us from doing so. I was in a weird forbidden relationship with a girl under 16 at the time so there was a small part of me that saw buying a toy from my childhood in front of her as a way to demonstrate I was harmless. Granted I had no sex drive but you can’t tell people that when you are 18 they freak out nonetheless.

The reason I tell that story is because I was arrested for taking her across state lines. I was charged with kidnapping. I had her and my younger sister both with me at the time. It was an instance where they had tricked me. I was driving my car around town playing music as I did because it was a small town with nothing to do. I spotted my sister and her friend, my then underage girlfriend, at the park. I asked what they were doing. They said school was out for the day and asked if I would drive them to the mall for a day of fun and shopping. I said sure because why not I had nothing else to do.

I wasn’t chasing the young girl. My interest was because of how much of a loser I was. Nobody ever expressed liking towards me. When she confessed to having a crush on me I caved and asked her out. I told her it couldn’t  be physical only letters and occasionally hanging out playing video games. She agreed, I got arrested and was explained why everything we did was wrong. Fortunately I never did anything illegal and her parents knowing me from church dropped the charges. I promptly ended things with her and moved on. I resolved to  never date a girl or made friends with an underage girl again.

The reason I was so nostalgic for my toys that day was because it had only been two years before I took all my toys, comic books and trading cards from my childhood and destroyed them because another girl broke up with me. I was 16 at that time. I was missing the things from my past. I had spent the following two years sinking my earned income into music equipment, car audio stuff and my computer. That put me in a weird place where I was cut off from the best parts of my past. Thus nostalgia took over. After dusting myself off from the threat of jail time for being so stupid I threw myself into my toys for the next few years. Until I sold them all.

During that time I was so obsessed I was engaging in all kinds of side hustles to make as much money as I could in order to acquire more toys. I was even trading car audio and computer stuff with people as well as video games to get more Transformers toys. At that time I stuck exclusively to Transformers branded toys. In 2019 I started collecting toys again only this time I opened myself to any and everything I wanted.

Toy collecting has always been tied to all the major milestones in my life. As a kid my toys were my best friends. As a teenager and into my early 20’s they were a way to meet girls. As an adult they remain a way for me to fill my empty life with things that bring me small amounts of joy from time to time. I never matured out of the 14-15 year old girl range. Despite being 39 now I still have the same interests at heart as a teenage girl. I often find myself in quite a dorky mood as I try to hold onto the good feelings from my youth. I never wanted to become and adult. I cling to the best parts of my childhood because it makes me feel younger than I really am. I have even been told I look many years younger than I am so I figured in a way they are like my own personal fountain of youth.

My current girlfriend is age appropriate as have been all mine since that incident. I had to learn some harsh lessons in life by confronting some dark accusations. It was not a place I would recommend anyone find themselves in. I was that naive I didn’t think anything of it. Like I said I wasn’t motivated by sexual desires so I thought that made it okay. I was wrong. Today my toys are a reminder of who I am not who I was. I hold onto the best parts because the worst is in the past where it belongs.

The personal triumph that I achieved baking a homemade pizza from scratch

Tonight I put my years of pizza experience to work and cooked me a couple of homemade pizzas entirely from scratch. I mean it too. I mixed my own dough from ingredients, my own pizza sauce from tomato paste and seasonings and topped it with fresh veggies and meats I cooked myself. I did it all from scratch and it was a blast.

This was no small feat for me. For starters I had only begun baking from scratch a couple of months ago when my sister dropped me off a 5 pound bag of flour to get me started. On top of that I have had my share of baking mishaps over the last couple weeks. I baked dinner rolls that I renamed biscuits once they were said and don. Tonight  was also a trip down memory lane of sorts.

I took my first pizza job as a delivery driver for Pizza Hut when I was just 19 years old, mere months before I turned 20 in 2002. During the subsequent ten or so years of my life I primarily made a living bouncing around from one pizza joint to the next. I landed on pizza driver because it was easy for me.

As a high school drop out pre-GED my job prospects were quite limited indeed. I wasn’t even truly qualified to work as a cashier at a gas station. Even K-Mart turned me down until I came back armed with some cash handling experience and that coveted GED. At least with a valid driver license and a car in my name I could run pizzas from store to door for a fair wage for a few years while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

It wasn’t until 2009 after I flunked out of truck driving school I realized I needed to make a drastic change in my life. At that time I was living in a van in my sisters back yard. I had hit what you could call rock bottom. Essentially homeless, unemployed and nowhere to go but up I turned my life around. But it wasn’t easy.

After a while I got into college. I landed my first gig in the entertainment media business as a videographer/DJ doing weddings. I parlayed that into a job at a TV station before becoming a journalist the next seven years. The rest is history.

In 2010 the winter before I signed up for college courses I attempted to make a homemade pizza for the first time. At that time it was a weird pipe dream. I had worked in pizza so long I figured I would try to get into my own franchise. It didn’t take long before I learned that wasn’t a reality for me. So I baked an unappetizing pie made mostly from scratch with a few short cuts here and there. I called it a loss considering nothing I cooked was edible. I threw the entire contents of that night into the garbage.

Tonight was a victory for me. A long ways away from those minimum wage jobs scraping by wearing my car down for pennies on the dollar. I decided I would take the culmination of all that experience and knowledge I stock piled all those years ago to see if I could end up baking a homemade pizza that I could classify as edible. I succeeded and then some.

I made two pies. I tasted each and they both fit the bill. They were so satisfying I ate a couple slices from eat and ended up with no heartburn to show for it! That was the mark for me. A tasty pie that I could save leftovers for the next day. I also had a blast baking the pies while my beloved girlfriend watched via Discord.

The take away for me is never give up on your dreams. Twenty years ago I was working in a dead end job with no education, no prospects and no clue what I was doing. Today I was able to bake a pizza from scratch merely as a testament of will. I wasn’t cooking a pizza for a minimum wage job. I wasn’t doing because I had no other options. I wasn’t rushing to get a pie delivered to an ungrateful chump who was going to demand it be free because I wasn’t willing to run red lights to get it to them in that awful 30 minutes or less promise we had at the time. Tonight I was baking a pizza for me.

It was a reminder of where I came from. How I overcame the damn odds to rise above. I am so far beyond successful in life as is often pointed out to me I have every right to look back and be a little smug about how far I’ve come.

Tonight was my way of nodding to my past self saying you got this. It gets better. I considered it a win because I was doing it for me, to prove I could. I look back on my life grateful for how far I have come. I no longer have to settle for minimum wage jobs busting my butt for a boss several years younger than myself. I am finally at a point where I get to chose my own path and that is one hell of a tasty prospect. Like those pies I baked today entirely from scratch. That’s how I lived my life making it up as I went along, taking nothing but raw ingredients and turning it into a delicious success story. Bon Apatite.